Mark Drakeford says NHS staff will not get pay increase but says they deserve it

The First Minister took questions from journalists during his first press conference of 2023 Credit: PA

Wales' First Minister says NHS staff in Wales do deserve a pay rise but he will not be offering it to them.

At a press conference on Monday, Mark Drakeford was setting out the Welsh Government's plans for 2023.

When asked whether NHS staff in Wales deserve bigger pay rises than those currently awarded, the First Minister responded by saying, "Yes. I've always said that."

"They deserve to be rewarded for the vital work they do and it is no surprise to me that a decade of austerity, followed by runaway inflation has the impact that it has on people feeling that they have no alternative but to express the disquiet they feel for the action they are taking."

"The amount of money we are able to put on the table for recurrent pay awards is absolutely linked to the level of pay awards that are struck in England", he added.

"That is why when we meet our trade union colleagues later this week, I'm not in a position to offer them a higher pay award that will build into their salaries and will go on building a platform for the future.

"But we have been able to find a sum of money that would enable us to make a one-off payment to our NHS staff before the end of this financial year."

Mr Drakeford refused to disclose exactly how much that pay award would be, but said negotiations are currently taking place with trade unions in an effort to stop more strikes.

It comes after the announcement that Welsh Ambulance Service workers will stage more walkouts on January 19 and 23.

Ambulance strikes took place in December and more are set for this month. Credit: PA

Doctors in Wales are also considering industrial action and members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) have already taken part in two days of strikes in December.

Mr Drakeford added: "It will not be what trade unions are ideally looking for but it will be a sum of money that would not otherwise be available to their members, during a difficult period with all the cost of living pressures that we have faced that could go directly into their members' pockets and no trade union would not be willing to talk about that.

The discussion of a one-off payment comes as the UK government is said to also be considering something similar for nurses and ambulance workers to end the strikes in England.

However Mr Drakeford described it as a "coincidence" that politicians in Westminster are thinking the same as those in Cardiff Bay and his government has not been influenced by that in Whitehall.

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